Let’s face it: electric bicycles are not cheap. An ebike costs usually over $1000 in the United States, many cost more than $2000, and the most expensive ones can reach $15,000 from top-known brands. Getting that extra power boost when riding and navigating various terrains at ease is indeed tempting, but investing in an ebike is a significant financial commitment, so, understandably, a potential consumer would hope to get the best value and many years of use.
Therefore, it is necessary to take a moment to go over the key factors before getting an ebike of your own. If you are a beginner in the ebike world, you might be overwhelmed by all the specs and don’t know where to start. With years of experience and communicating with real-world ebike riders, we have summarized the 10 things that they wish they knew before getting an ebike. Read on!
Table of contents
- Laws and regulations
- Motor size
- Battery capacity
- Charging time
- Price range
- Ebike types
- After-service and maintenance
- Risk awareness and responsible riding
1. Laws and regulations
“Is ebike motorized vehicle” is one of the most commonly asked questions among potential ebike consumers. The answer is based on the laws and regulations that a country or region enacted towards ebikes.
In the US, there is a federal law that states when ebike will be considered consumer products. According to the federal Consumer Product Safety Act’s definition, low-speed electric bicycles with fully operable pedals, a top speed when powered solely by the motor under 20 mph (32 km/h) and an electric motor that produces less than 750 W (1.01 horsepower) are considered consumer products.
However, regulation of how ebikes are used on public streets is subject to different state vehicle codes. Ebike maximum speed, maximum power, helmet requirement and minimum operation age all vary from state to state. For example, in California, ebikes are allowed to reach a max speed of 28 mph in some specific areas and no driver’s license is required, but in Wisconsin, ebikes are only allowed 20 mph at most, and driver’s license is required. (Check Wikipedia for a summary of different laws and regulations of ebikes in the US)
To summarize, it is very important to learn and understand the specific regulations your region has on ebikes, so that you’ll avoid the award moment of getting pulled over by a traffic police when enjoying a ride on your ebike.
2. Motor size
Motor is the part of the ebike that provides power for the ride and pushes you forward, so understanding its power is important for the performance you expect to get from the ebike. It affects how fast you can accelerate or the hill-climbing ability of the ebike.
Typically, the power of an ebike motor is defined as watt(W). The most commonly seen motors have 250W, 500W, 750W, 1000W and even 2000W of power. As discussed in the last paragraph, the federal law and most states regulate that ebike should not have a motor of over 750W power. So the safest choice is an ebike with 750W or less power.
One thing you need to pay attention to is continuous power and peak power. The power we are discussing above is continuous power, also called sustained or rated power, which is the maximum power the motor can provide under normal circumstances for a long period. Whereas peak power is how much the motor can achieve under extreme circumstances such as when climbing a steep hill, which cannot last for a long period without overheating. Peak power is always higher than continuous power, so some brands would feature the peak power for their ebike motor, which is not accurate. Pay attention if the brand is stating if the power output is continuous or peak power.
3. Battery capacity
Battery is often the top factor to affect an ebike’s price. The larger the battery capacity is, the more distance the ebike can cover within a single charge. So it is an important factor to consider according to your range expectation.
Battery capacity is typically defined in watt-hour(Wh). Some brands would state their battery in voltage(V) and amp(A), and you can simply multiply the two and get its watt-hour number. For example, a 48V 14A battery has a battery capacity of 672Wh.
The maximum range depends on not only the battery capacity but also a lot of other factors. One is the type of riding or terrain you plan to do or navigate. If you constantly ride avidly on hills instead of on flat grounds, the battery will consume faster than normal. Another factor is the rider’s weight. The heavier the rider is, the more battery the ebike will consume.
4. Charging time
It is common sense that batteries need charging, but the charging time of an ebike battery may be beyond your imagination. Unlike phone batteries, it usually takes 4-8 hours to fully charge an ebike battery, which is a pretty considerable period.
Riders should be ready to face a long charging time, and set aside time for charging before going out for a ride. It would be devastating if you are out for a ride and drain the battery. You’ll be left with a heavy ebike!
You can estimate the charging time by checking the voltage and amp of the charger, just like on the battery. The higher the two numbers are, the faster it is able to charge the battery, but the total time still depends on the battery capacity.
Besides motor and battery, the most significant electric component of an ebike is the sensor. A sensor can sense how much the rider is pedaling, and tells the motor how much power to provide accordingly.
There are two types of sensors used in the ebike market: torque sensor and cadence sensor. A torque sensor senses how hard you are pedaling, and multiplies your effort based on what pedal assist level(the higher it is, the more power the motor will offer) you are in. It results in a ride that feels a lot natural like riding a regular bike. A cadence sensor just senses when you are pedaling, and accelerates to a set speed depending on what pedal assist level you are in. With this sensor, you might "ghost pedal"--just rotate the pedals with no resistance, and still go fast.
People who are already avid bike riders tend to appreciate a torque sensor. People who don't want to exert themselves and who want to go fast tend to prefer a cadence sensor. Torque sensor ebikes tend to get more miles per charge, and fit people who prefer a more natural and intuitive riding experience like on an acoustic bike and more exercise level.
6. Price range
Generally, the three electric components mentioned before, motor, battery and sensor, would determine most of the price of an ebike. The other mechanical components have a limited impact on the price.
Although the price of an ebike varies from brand to brand, most commercial ebikes cost between $1000 to $2000. Lower than $1000, you may be compromising on its performance, such as getting a 250W or a cadence sensor ebike. Higher than $2000, you may be just paying for its brand, appearance or marketing campaigns without getting the same worth of value. Ebikes between $1000 and $2000 price range should offer the best bang for your buck!
7. Ebike types
Although different types of ebike consist of the same components, they can serve different purposes and functions with diverse designs. Think clearly about your needs, and pick the right type of ebike for you. Here are the commonly seen types of ebike in the market:
Based on tires and suitable terrains: mountain, all-terrain, commuter, and cruiser ebike
Based on frame design: step-over and step-through ebike (with or without top tube, if you are a shorter rider or sometimes wear a skirt on ebike, get a step-thru)
Based on functionality: foldable and cargo ebike
Based on suspension: no, front and full suspension (front suspension is more than enough for most scenarios, but full suspension is the best for shock absorption)
The electric parts are heavy and big, making the whole ebike heavy and bulky as well. An ebike usually weighs at least 50 pounds, many reaching 70 or 80 lbs. Be prepared for a big “monster” if you are getting an ebike!
There are different tire diameters and widths for ebikes too, and they affect the total size of the ebike profoundly. The commonly seen ebike tire diameters are 16, 20, 24, 26, 27.5 and 29 inches, and widths from 1 to 4 inches. The bigger the diameter is, the higher the ebike will be and the harder you’ll be to get on it. And the wider the tires are, the more off-terrain capability they have for having more traction with the ground, but also the heavier they are and the harder they are to be handled. The 4” tires are usually called fat tires with their unique benefits. (Read more in our blog)
Riders should consider the ebike size according to their height and body strength. Shorter riders can consider 20” ebikes.
9. After-service and maintenance
Ebikes, like other pricy complex machinery, require regular check-ups to ensure their optimal performance and longevity. Be careful and patient with the ebike if you hope for years of joyrides.
But not everyone is a bike expert, let alone an ebike expert, so riders would hope to get help from the brand of bike stores. The electrical and mechanical items require maintenance and replacement parts and this fact should be part of the criteria equal in importance to the price.
Check if the brand you like provides a warranty and has offline dealers. There are “millions” of ebike brands in the market now, and many of them only do online business, so they do not offer the same level of service as the brands with warranty assurance and offline dealers. You might be stuck with a useless ebike and have nothing to do with that kind of brands!
10. Risk awareness and responsible riding
Ebikes are fast, and with faster speed comes larger danger. Laws and regulations represent the least that a rider should obey when riding an ebike. For example, you should be above the regulated age to operate an ebike, and don’t ride in restricted areas. But other than that, regular safety precautions should be valued too. We highly recommend you wear a helmet when riding an ebike.
If you haven’t been on a bike for a while, or you don’t know how to ride a bike at all, it would be better if you could take some time to get used to riding bikes first, and then electrify your ride.
Best ebike brand you should check out in 2024
Founded in 2019, Hovsco has been a rapidly growing e-bike brand led by a dedicated team of cycling enthusiasts. It has an official headquarter in Diamond Bar, California, and over 100 dealer accross US. Hovsco offers 8 different kinds of ebikes suitable for every type of rider, and the value is mostly between $1,000 to $2,000 with the best value in the market. 7 out of the 8 ebike models are equipped with the advanced torque sensor which gives you a natural riding feel, and 500~700W motor for powerful boost. There are foldable, cargo and full-suspension options for different riders. Hovsco is the best brand if you are looking for an ebike to commute, explore trails and more!